Monday, July 23, 2007

How Politically Aware are Teachers?

As I was writing my last post on fallacies of reasoning, a thought occurred to me. Exactly how political and politically aware are teachers today? At one time in Ontario, teachers, led by an energetic OSSTF (Ontario Secondary Teachers’ Federation), were quite radical and activist. Today, sad to say, that has given way to a real quietism, even corporatism which, I have often suspected, is a reflection of the staid leadership of the Federation. Those thoughts will be discussed more fully in a future post.

My point, however, is that educators cannot afford to think, as many seem to, that they are beyond politics, as if somehow the political realities of society have no place in the classroom. At the last school I taught in, I was fortunate to work closely with a number of people who were both aware and politically active. However, the vast majority of the staff at the school, I felt, preferred to ignore much of the outside world, even going so far as to think that the Federation was irrelevant to their lives. Given that the profession now has a growing number of young people, it seems that this is the time to reradicalize them, not necessarily in the sense of pumping them up for strike action, but rather to remind them of the vital role they play in helping to turn out a thinking, reflective population so that they can be true participants in our democratic traditions.

I guess what bothered me about some of them was their complete deference to administrative authority. Even when egregious wrongdoing was committed by that authority, there seemed little passion, except amongst a small group, to try to rectify the situation. Indeed, there were those who, probably with an eye to becoming principals themselves, were, shall we say, habitu├ęs of the office. This is unhealthy, not only for teachers, but also for administrators, who can succumb to the temptation of surrounding themselves with a coterie of loyalists while treating the rest of the staff with disdain or suspicion.

The implications for society are enormous. If students are emerging from isolationist classrooms, where important questions have not been asked and discussed, how productive as members of democratic society can they be? Given the very conservative nature of those who administer public education, the chances of turning out reflective, critically-engaged citizens seem somewhat remote.

Or am I wrong? I would love to hear your thoughts on this issue.

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1 comment:

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